17 Jan 2020

A French affair

by Rhonda Karl
A French affair

It will be an all-French affair for the ASB Classic men’s singles final tomorrow.

Either 5th seed Benoit Paire or Next Gen star Ugo Humbert will become the first Frenchman to win the prestigious title. The pair played for the first-time last year in Winston Salem - with the 30-year old Paire having to fight hard to overcome his 21-year old foe 3-6 7-6 (2) 6-3. 

The 57th ranked Ugo Humbert reached his first ATP final by taming the serve of American John Isner 7-6 (5) 6-4. Humbert won 100 per cent of his first serve points and played a solid tie-break to win the first set. At the start of the second set he became the first man to break Isner’s serve all week – and it’s an advantage he didn’t let slip on his way to winning the match.

The young Frenchman says he’ll approach the match just like any other.

“I have my plan I just have to be myself and try do my best and we will see tomorrow.”

Benoit Paire is loving playing under the lights in Auckland - winning his third night match of the event against sixth seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-4 6-7 (1) 6-3.

Paire played with his usual emotion - but held his cool long enough in the third set overcoming a flurry of services breaks to claim his spot in the final.

The veteran will be looking to win his fourth career singles title on the ATP tour.

"It was the first time for me (here) in the semi-finals, now first time in final - it was not easy, not everything was perfect," Paire says 

"I hope tomorrow will be better and I hope to enjoy it."

The world number 24 knows he'll have to bring his best form to take out the talented leftie Humbert. 

"Ugo is a good friend, is a tough opponent he plays the ball very fast a little bit like Hubert."

As the French dominate the singles final, our New Zealand players are in the mix for doubles. Kiwi Marcus Daniel and his Austrian partner Phillip Oswald go up against Queenstown local Ben McLachlan of Japan and Luke Bambridge of Great Britain.

Ten years ago, Daniel made his breakthrough on tour winning his first ATP doubles title in Auckland alongside Romanian Horio Tecau.

“I’ve got pretty special memories on that court and I’m one and zero in finals here, so I’ve got a good record going into it,” Daniel said.

In the last decade Daniel has forged ahead in his doubles career becoming a regular on the world circuit – winning 4 ATP doubles titles and reaching a career high rank of No. 34.

He’ll be facing another kiwi across the net in Ben McLachlan who is the defending ASB Classic doubles champion. McLachlan has played for Japan since 2017.

Daniel knows they’ve got a big task ahead of them.

 “Oz and I are paying great tennis and we’re creating opportunities and I think we’ve just got to be ready for another big fight tomorrow.”

The ASB Classic men’s finals day kicks off at 12pm tomorrow with the doubles final before making way for the singles final not before 2.30pm.